The Effect of the Federal Shutdown on the Nation’s Airports

At the end of the week, President Trump’s government shut down reached new heights, breaking the record for the longest such incident in US history.  Setting a new record is usually a good thing, but this isn’t a marathon or the Olympics and signs of strain from the extended furlough are starting to show.

You may be aware of trash piling up from unmanned National Parks but this is a passive effect that you can avoid. That is, of course, if you can still find a National Park that is currently open to the public. 

The biggest strain this week, however, could be felt by air travelers as TSA agents have not been showing up to work.  According to the United States Transportation Administration, workers who manned security checkpoints up to December 22 will definitely be paid, even though the federal shutdown started the day before.  In addition, TSA Administrator David P. Pekoske offered workers a $500 bonus for their commitment to work during the holiday season since they did not receive their paycheck on Friday. 

While Pekoske’s peace offering is likely quite appreciated, the American Federation of Government Employees warned for at least the last week, that its unionized TSA members will not be able to get to their jobs if they do not receive their paychecks.  Accordingly, the TSA reported, this week, 5.6 percent of its total 51,000 workers did not come to work on Friday.  Last year, unscheduled absences for the same date were only at 3.3 percent. 

Still, those who are choosing to come to work are managing pretty well.  TSA spokesman Jim Gregory commented that the agency screened 1.96 million passengers, nationwide, on Friday.  And among these checkpoints, most were able to clear the agency’s 30-minute clearance standard with wait times of 15 minutes or less. 

Gregory comments, “More importantly, security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports.  We thank the public for their continued support and acts of kindness.”

FAA Air Traffic Controllers have promised to stay on the job, even without pay; probably because they make quite a bit more than TSA workers, reports the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. NATCA executive vice president Trish Gilbert advises that the agency simply does not support such activity. He commits “We have taken an oath and we provide service to the American public.  We know we’re important to the United States economy, and we are going to work.  We’re just not getting paid.” 

And with that, the NATCA has sued President Trump for depriving them of “hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process.”

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